“11/22/63” Stephen King

2011. Scribner (Simon & Schuster). 849 pp.

11:22:63Fifty years ago, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, America and its citizens changed forever. Conspiracy theorists have had 50 years to ponder whether or not Oswald acted alone, and wonder how Kennedy would have led the country had he lived.

Most readers associate Stephen King’s name with horror stories, but “11/22/63” had none of what I’d come to expect from his scary books-turned-into-movies. I am not a fan of horror so tended to shy away from the genre but “11/22/63,” filled with realistic fiction and history, had me hooked from page 1.

Jake Epping, high school English teacher, is convinced by Al, owner of his favorite diner, that time travel is possible. Due to failing health Al is unable to accomplish his ultimate life goal – to use the time portal to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. Despite his unbelief and fear of the unknown, Jake manages to travel to 1958 unscathed where he begins to see the real possibility of changing history.

Jake has his own goals for entering the past which include saving Harry, a severely crippled GED student, from watching his drunken father almost kill him after using a hammer to kill his mother, brother and sister. Jake is sure he can undo the past and save Harry, while also hanging around to save Kennedy.

Jake tracks Oswald’s every move leading up to that faithful November day, while managing to build a new life and learning to love once more. Incredibly, the dangers he faces while changing the past are closely bound up in his future – revealed in proper King fashion. The intervening years between 1958 and 1963 show Jake that history has a way of changing even the best intentions, and that the past will do anything to stay the same.

“11/22/63” is a must read for Adult readers who will find themselves pondering the many “what if’s” faced by Jake while asking themselves if they would’ve made the same choices.

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